The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity
5 Steps Parents Can Take

Identifying Young At-Risk Children
Before They Experience Reading Failure

Modified from Overcoming Dyslexia, by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.


The five-year-old who can't quite learn his letters becomes the six-year-old who can't match sounds to letters and the fourteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud and the twenty-one-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly. The threads persist throughout a person's life. But, with early intervention, this scenario doesn’t need to happen.

Today, it is possible to reliably identify boys and girls at high risk for dyslexia before they fall behind. Good help is available to them now as never before. Here is what we believe is the most scientifically sound and sensible approach to identifying young at-risk children before they experience reading failure:

  • Observe your child’s language development. Be on the alert for problems in rhyming, pronunciation, and word finding.
  • Observe your child’s ability to connect print to language.  Notice if he is beginning to name individual letters.
  • Know your family history. Be alert to problems in speaking, reading, writing, spelling, or learning a foreign language. Some families with more than the average complement of dyslexics seem to have an abundance of photographers, artists, engineers, architects, scientists, and radiologists. Somewhat less frequent, but still impressive, are the large number of families sprinkled with great writers, entrepreneurs, and jurists who are dyslexic.
  • If there are clues to problems with spoken language, learning letter names, and especially if there is a family history, have your child tested.
  • Focus on strengths as well as the weaknesses. The goal is to make sure that the strengths and not the weaknesses define the child's life.  

All of these steps here can help you judge if your child is ready to read or if he requires special attention or education to help him begin to read. If his testing indicates that he is not quite ready to read, you have the choice of delaying kindergarten or allowing him to enter kindergarten and receive intensive, evidence-based prevention programs. Our recommendation is not to delay kindergarten; waiting another year will only delay needed help.

Click here to see a guide to reading-related skills.

These successful people drew on their strengths to overcome dyslexia.

Draw on Your Strengths. Hit Your Targets in Life
Look for these strengths in your dyslexic child to help him/her hit targets in life.